What is the best Nintendo Console?
It was in 1985 that Nintendo launched the Nintendo Entertainment System on North American shores and forever changed the video gaming industry; decades later, the company is seeing great success with the newest member in their console library, the Nintendo Switch. Now that we’re in the midst of another generation of great gaming, Goomba Stomp has decided to update our ranking of every console Nintendo has released over the years. We believe that each console on the list has had a major influence on both the industry and gaming culture, and whether for better (Super NES) or worse (Virtual Boy), the industry as a whole is indebted to Nintendo.
Quick Note: We first published this article back in 2015 when we launched our website, but while we had more (and different) writers participate in the voting process this time around, the order surprisingly hasn’t changed much. In fact, the only difference is that we’ve added the Switch to the list.
Also worth noting: Prior to 1985, Nintendo already had insane success with the Famicom and Game & Watch in Japan. However, we’ve decided to rank the consoles dating back to the Nintendo Entertainment System, since most of our writers reside in North America and Europe, and didn’t grow up playing any of the Japanese exclusives. With that out of the way, here is our list ranking all the Nintendo consoles over the years.
Best Nintendo Consoles #13: Virtual Boy
The Virtual Boy proved to be a dismal failure for Nintendo. It was an absolute, bonafide disaster, and supposedly forced the retirement of creator Gunpei Yokoi, the brilliant mind behind the once-successful Game & Watch (not to mention legendary producer of such games as Metroid, Donkey Kong, and Mario Bros.). It didn’t take long before Nintendo realized their mistake, and just months after its release, they decided to pull the plug.
The 32-bit system (powered by six AA batteries) was marketed as the first portable video game console capable of displaying “true 3D graphics.” Designed as a set of red-coloured VR goggles mounted on a tripod with a controller wired in, the Virtual Boy demanded users hunch over and cramp their back in order to play. It was weird, and perhaps too weird for its own good. In many ways, however, it was also ahead of its time.
The console featured sharp, high-resolution graphics, and was capable of some extraordinary gameplay. Unfortunately, the system was largely overshadowed by its controversial LED (Light Emitting Display) technology, which rendered the visuals in monochromatic red on black. Even worse, the system was not intended for use by children under the age of seven, and displayed warnings on the box and in the manual that cautioned users about long-term side effects, including permanent damage to the eyes. Those who did purchase the console complained about sickness, flashbacks, and painful migraines. Although the system was a huge failure, diehard fans still defend it to this day, praising the quality of games and the well-designed controller featuring asymmetrical button configuration, dual control pads, and comfortable handles. (Ricky D)
Best Nintendo Consoles #12: Game Boy Color
While mostly retaining the same hardware as the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Color’s primary competitors were the much more advanced Neo Geo Pocket and the WonderSwan by Bandai (released in Japan only). Though the Game Boy Color crushed the competition in sales, it had a very short lifespan. Nintendo chopped shipments in 2001, effectively making the era of GBC only three years long. While it features a pair of secondary Zelda games as well as a pair of Pokemon titles, there really isn’t a true classic to be found in the system’s entire repertoire. Games made specifically to take advantage of the system’s hardware were few and far between, and while the addition of color was a welcome change, Nintendo and gamers were getting ready to move on.
Best Nintendo Consoles #11: Game Boy
The iconic 8-bit handheld video game device was created by Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo Research & Development 1 — the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series nearly a decade earlier. Redesigned versions were released in the form of Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Light (Japan only), but for the most part, each version contains the same hardware as the original. The Game Boy was the very first internationally successful handheld gaming system, and upon its release in the United States, it sold its entire shipment of one million units within a few weeks. It was a phenomenon, and the start of the popular handheld gaming trend.
On the design side of things, the Game Boy was made simple and devoid of any true styling. The plastic is light gray in color, and has a slight texture, but that’s about it. But where the Game Boy does stand out is in build quality. It might just be the toughest gaming console ever made, sturdy enough to survive a bomb, and it’s the first video game system to travel to space.
However, the big problem with the original Game Boy is the screen. It features four levels of gray to augment the lack of back-lighting, and while players could adjust the screen’s contrast with the slider on the device’s left side, the display quality isn’t very impressive, remaining extremely grainy and difficult to see in most lighting conditions. And of course, the original Game Boy didn’t display any bright, shiny colors; instead, we got a horrid green and grey screen — a decision Nintendo made in order to save on battery life (four AA batteries last for up to thirty hours of gaming on the system).
The library of Game Boy games includes deep entries into the Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy series, and in total there were 716 games released worldwide. These games also include classics like Mario Tennis, Shantae, Kid Dracula, Metal Gear Solid, and Mortal Kombat, to name a few. And lest we forget, the Game Boy is responsible for unleashing two of gaming’s greatest phenomenons: Tetris took the world by storm, and Pokemon Red and Blue launched an international craze. The games are classic — and more importantly, they are fun, which is what truly makes any console special. Unfortunately, it isn’t the pinnacle of handheld gaming, as some would like to claim. That system comes later in this list.
Best Nintendo Consoles #10: Game Boy Advance
The Game Boy Advance was not as revolutionary as the Game Boy Color, but it proved very profitable, selling a whopping 81.51 million units worldwide. The handheld featured a 32-bit RISC processor and a sharp, colorful, reflective LCD screen. In other words, we’re talking about a portable system that performs at roughly the same level as a Super Nintendo. With hardware comparable to the home console, the Game Boy Advance also helped further advanced sprite-based technology. In terms of battery life, GBA did fairly well. You could play 14.5 hours using only two AA batteries. In addition, it was designed for maximum comfort, and was released with a dozen accessories, including a wireless Adapter, a link cable, an e-Reader, a cleaning cartridge, and so much more.
The major downside was the lack of original games. Being able to play your favourite SNES games on the go was a major selling point, but when it came to original content, there wasn’t much to be found. Instead, the library of Game Boy Advance games is comprised mostly of remakes and re-releases, many of which were sub-par to the original games. In fact, the GBA is the only major Nintendo console to not have its own original Super Mario title. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth the $70 — two great 2D Metroid titles and the first Fire Emblem game to hit stateside was reason enough to own one. Along with a fresh, updated entry in the Castlevania series, a few critically acclaimed entries in the Mario Kart and Zelda franchises, and backward compatibility, the Game Boy Advance was a worthy successor to the original Game Boy. (Ricky D)
Best Nintendo Consoles #9: Nintendo DS
The Nintendo DS came at the perfect time, long before mobile games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush sold millions to just about anyone who carried a cell phone. From 2004 to 2011, the Nintendo DS dominated mobile gaming by introducing distinct new features, including two LCD screens working in tandem (the bottom one featuring a touchscreen), a built-in microphone, and support for wireless connectivity. It was the also the first device of any kind to effectively introduce touch controls, something we now take it for granted. The DS is capable of displaying 260,000 colors, and both the screens are backlit — making them easy to see outside and indoors, something the Game Boy Color couldn’t get right. To date, it’s the second-best-selling platform on this list; in fact, all Nintendo DS models combined have sold 154.01 million units, making it the second-best-selling video game console of all time period (beaten out by the PlayStation 2, which sold 155 million units).
With the DS, Nintendo began to market to demographics beyond typical young-adult males. The DS featured a strong library, introduced online play, and catered to both the hardcore and casual gamers alike, giving them theProfessor Layton franchise, WarioWare, a new Animal Crossing game, a brand-new 2D Super Mario title, and even a Grand Theft Auto game. Add on three excellent Castlevania titles, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, as well as a ton of Pokemon games, and you’ve got a library that justified the cheap $150 price tag.
So why does it rank so low on our list? The DS era was sort of an experimental phase for Nintendo that would eventually bring us the much-improved 3DS. In truth, many DS games have not aged well, and although the system introduced some excellent new features, we simply prefer other consoles over this. (Ricky D)
Best Nintendo Consoles #8: Wii U
Nintendo’s Wii U console has somewhat of a bad reputation, and with reason, since it is perhaps Nintendo’s greatest commercial failure.
That said, a console should never be judged by the number of units in sales. The Dreamcast is without a doubt one of the greatest consoles ever produced, and yet sales did not meet Sega’s expectations. Despite several price cuts, the Dreamcast sold only 10.6 million units worldwide. Of course, we all know what happened next: Sega discontinued the Dreamcast, and respectively withdrew from the console business. However, Nintendo isn’t Sega, and the company was never in any danger of closing shop. In fact, despite the low number of sales, Nintendo at least made back its money on the WiiU — and more importantly, one can argue that the Wii U’s gamepad served as inspiration for the Nintendo Switch.
In terms of computing power, the Wii U lags behind the field. It has practically no AAA 3rd party support, and its primary feature — the gamepad — has proven integral to only a handful of games. That said, despite the Switch poaching, the Wii U has a great library of exclusive games, such as Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3, that still has us going back to play it every so often. The Wii U is also home to amazing HD remakes like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and DuckTales, as well as surprise hits such as Hyrule Warriors and Captain Toad, not to mention the critically acclaimed Bayonetta 2.
And let’s not forget that Nintendo released an exciting new IP in Splatoon, a third-person shooter which went on to sell one million copies in less than a month, and Super Mario Maker, the company’s first robust level editor, with the option to download and play levels created by members of the online Wii U community. Furthermore, the Wii U library includes Yoshi’s Woolly World, Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade Chronicles X,and dozens of indie darlings like Shovel Knight, Adventures of Pip, and Guacamelee!. The WiiU is also compatible with most Wii games, and includes an online virtual store where you can download titles from previous Nintendo systems, including the NES, Super NES, N64, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance and more.
As someone who’s owned every Nintendo console, I’m not interested in Nintendo having the most powerful system. Once again, it all comes down to games, and the Wii U has all the above and more. (Ricky D)
Best Nintendo Consoles #7: 3DS | New 3DS XL
The surest way to make a system’s greatness apparent isn’t hardware specs or a sleek, smooth design; it’s games, plain and simple. I bought the Wii U and 3DS at the same time, around the time the former released. Yet for all the dazzling HD tech behind the latest home console, it was the little portable that would take up all my gaming attention for a good long while, for one reason and one reason only: games. Nintendo’s 3DS may have had a slow start, but after a couple of sizeable hits, suddenly the dam burst.
The 3DS’ library wound down its life not only full of a vast multitude of titles, but a wallet-scaring number of absolutely fantastic ones. Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Resident Evil: Revelations, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Pokemon X/Y, Bravely Default, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Kid Icarus: Uprising and oh-my-god so many more. That’s not even counting the remakes of Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and Star Fox 64, or all the incredibly addicting eShop downloadables, Virtual Console hits, and the obsession-inducing StreetPass diversions.
Sure, it doesn’t have the power of Sony’s Vita (except in sales comparisons), a second analog stick would’ve been great (the New 3DS’ nub doesn’t quite do the trick), and the 3D is more of an interesting technology gimmick than a gameplay enhancer, but neither these nor any other niggling issues have mattered to me in the slightest. Nintendo’s 3DS quickly shot up my personal list of favourite consoles because of the sheer number of amazing experiences I’ve had, and with an amazingly massive back catalog, it looks to stay that way for quite a while. (Patrick Murphy)
Best Nintendo Consoles #6: Wii
Released November 19th, 2006, the Wii was Nintendo’s seventh generation console. Competing against the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the Wii held the lead in the “console wars,” selling more than 101 million units in the first quarter of 2012. With the Wii, Nintendo revolutionized the way we play video games, focusing on innovation and gameplay over fancy graphics and multimedia. And with it came the Wii remote, a handheld controller that made us play games using movement. The Wii also focused on a broad target demographic, with an array of first-party and third-party games for everyone. It offered classic mainstays of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid titles, (most notably Super Mario Galaxy), but also introduced us to grittier and darker games like Madworld, No More Heroes, Silent Hills: Shattered Memory and Manhunt 2.
The Wii was also excellent for being fully backward compatible, with the ability to still play your GameCube games, as well as use the old controller as well. The Wii Virtual Console even had an extensive library of classic titles, where players were able to purchase games from the NES, Sega Genesis, N64, and even the Neo-Geo. The Wii maintained its dominance for several years, but slowly started to fade out as most customers transferred into high-definition televisions, and the Wii graphics started to pale next to the 360 and the PS3. However, the Wii still stands as one the great consoles today despite its lack of technological advancements in the console races. Innovative gameplay and design are what really made this model shine. (Aaron Santos)
Best Nintendo Consoles #5: Nintendo Entertainment System
The Japanese video game giant Nintendo emerged as a global leader in the video game industry when it unveiled the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. The NES went on to become the best-selling gaming console of its time, and thirty years later, the NES still plays a major influence on the entire industry. Now, I’ve heard the argument that the admiration toward the NES is largely due to nostalgia, but one can make that very same argument towards anything we hold dear, including any one of the consoles appearing on this list. However, the Nintendo Entertainment System stands the test of time, proven by the simple fact that gamers still purchase and/or play NES titles to this day. And even though Nintendo stopped production of software for the NES, the aftermarket library keeps growing, with countless new titles made by many diehard game designers who’ve studied the nuts and bolts of the Ricoh 6502 processor and put their practice to good use. Some even go the extra mile and produce cartridges, boxes, and manuals, and sell their creations online.
This console helped revitalize the US video game industry following the video game crash of 1983; it introduced a plethora of now iconic video game characters, a ton of accessories and it forever changed the relationship of console manufacturers and third-party software developers. The NES was the first true must-have video game console, and if you couldn’t afford one, Nintendo also changed the rental market by allowing video stores to rent their systems and games. But put aside how it saved and changed the industry — what makes the console great is the library of games.
The NES boasts a grand total of 826 titles to choose from (713 licensed and 113 unlicensed games), including a number of groundbreaking hits. Super Mario Bros. pioneered side-scrollers, while The Legend of Zelda helped popularize battery-backed save functionality. Metroid was lauded for being one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! is still regarded as one of the greatest sports games ever made. Has there been any other console that released hit after hit at the rate Nintendo did during the NES days? Along with these titles, there is also Castlevania, Mega Man, Metal Gear, Mother, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Contra, Kid Icarus, Ninja Gaiden, Kirby’s Adventure, DuckTales, and the many sequels that outdid their predecessors. Take for instance Super Mario Bros. 3, which was leaps and bounds beyond any other game released back in the day, not to mention the five Mega Man sequels, which are still considered the very best in the franchise.
Here’s a console that changed the industry as a whole, and continues to inspire and entertain to this day. For all these reasons and more, the NES is, in my opinion, the greatest video game console ever made — Nintendo or otherwise. (Ricky D)
Best Nintendo Consoles #4: N64
The Nintendo 64 is probably Nintendo’s most polarizing console released to date. Ask someone about it, and they’ll most likely rank it either among the best consoles ever released, or way down at the bottom of the list with the likes of the Virtual Boy and the N-Gage. Some simply couldn’t get past its weirdly shaped controller, and many criticized Nintendo’s choice of sticking with cartridges when CD-ROM was already the norm, but no one can deny the console’s impact on the industry, in terms of both hardware and software.
Nintendo consoles have always been at the forefront of innovation, and the N64 was no exception. With a growing trend towards multiplayer games, the N64 was the first console to launch with four controller ports. The controllers, which plugged into said ports featured the first digital thumb-stick, allowed the player 360-degree control over their in-game avatar — and best of all, the stick could be controlled using just a thumb, unlike those huge analog joysticks from past consoles. Those three-pronged controllers were also the first on a home console to have a rumble feature, thanks to the Rumble Pak which debuted alongside Star Fox 64, and it also pioneered the use of trigger-style buttons with its Z-Trigger. Yes, the Nintendo 64 was behind on the times when it came to the use of CD-ROM technology, but it changed the industry none the less. Four controller ports, thumb-sticks, trigger buttons and the rumble feature all became industry standard moving forward.
Cool hardware innovations are always welcome, but consoles are remembered for their greatest games, and the Nintendo 64 had no shortage of industry-changing titles. GoldenEye 007 took the beloved genre of first-person shooters, which had previously only found true success on the PC platform, and made it viable on consoles. With its atmospheric single-player campaign and its wide array of competitive multiplayer options, GoldenEye paved the way for the Halos and Call of Duty games to come. Super Mario 64 was the first game to feature a camera that could be moved freely and independently of the character, giving the player freedom and control in a 3D space like never before, and changing 3D game development forever. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, to this day, is seen by many as the greatest video game of all time. And the list goes on: Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie, Super Smash Bros, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Perfect Dark, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and on and on. Almost every console released to date has some great games and a handful of true masterpieces to their credit, but the Nintendo 64 has dozens of genre-defining and awe-inspiring classics.
While the N64’s collection of games is its greatest strength, the lack of depth in its library is a glaring weak point to many. The mass majority of great N64 titles, including all those mentioned above, were developed by Nintendo or Rareware. There were great games from other developers (WWF No Mercy, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Resident Evil 2 to name some), but they were few are far between. Due to the limitations of the cartridge format, and the difficulty of developing games for the N64 compared to the PS1, many 3rd party developers opted to simply ignore the console, which resulted in the N64’s game library topping out at about 500 games, whereas the PlayStation has over 3000 titles in its arsenal.
It’s very easy to draw parallels between the Nintendo 64 and the the Wii U; both systems launched with hardware that was not up to par when compared to their contemporaries, which resulted in them having a severe lack of 3rd-party support, and thus underwhelming game libraries. The difference is that while the Wii U has a handful of amazing first party games, the N64 has dozens. For those who look at sheer numbers, yes, the PlayStation undoubtedly has the larger library, but at the end of the day, it comes down to quality versus quantity, and I’d always take the former over the latter. It may not have been the technological marvel of its time, and it certainly didn’t get the 3rd-party love that Nintendo would have hoped for, but the Nintendo 64’s elite game library gives it just enough to stand tall amongst the greatest consoles ever made. (Matt De Azevedo)
Best Nintendo Consoles #3: GameCube
Charm can go a long way. Just ask the average-looking person dating someone out of their league, or the not-so-smart guy at work who somehow got the promotion you know you’d be more qualified for. Nintendo’s GameCube may have lacked some of the more obvious desirable video game console traits, but it more than made up for it with quirky appeal and some of the most offbeat and memorable risks of Nintendo’s long history. Right off the bat, you couldn’t help notice that this adorable little box was purple, with a handle on the end that made it seem more like a portable toy than a high-powered gaming machine. There was a choice immediately to be made, and you either walked away, or (like myself), not only rolled with it but cracked a big smile.
The GameCube may be the most “Nintendo” console the company has ever made, and those who stuck around were treated to the kind of fun magic not to be found anywhere else. Experimentation like a cel-shaded Zelda, Marios’s FLUDD, and the very idea of a 3D Metroid game not only working but blowing people away, cemented Nintendo’s desire to innovate. The mood was contagious, with companies like Capcom pushing the limits of weirdness with titles like Viewtiful Joe and Killer 7, and Resident Evil 4 took the series in an awesome direction that would shape the franchise for years to come. The Gamecube may not have had the packed library of its competitors, but what it did have were destined to become classics. Even the controller has garnered its share of fierce loyalty, with many Smash Bros. players (loads of whom still put Melee at the top of their list) preferring its eccentricities to a more standard device.
The GameCube didn’t try to be cool; it was comfortable with what it was, and from the moment the iconic startup screen sounds its familiar tones (unless you found one of several Easter eggs), one can’t help but be endeared all over again. (Patrick Murphy)
Best Nintendo Consoles #2: Switch
Nintendo’s latest addition to its illustrious history of gaming consoles can already be considered one of its finest. From its portability to its ever-growing collection of wonderful games, the Nintendo Switch offers an experience for everybody, something not many consoles can boast.
The secret to the Nintendo Switch’s success lies in the DNA of every past Nintendo console. Every time the Switch vibrates, it’s a reminder of the Nintendo 64’s rumble pack; every time the motion controls are activated, it’s a reminder of the Wii remote; every time the switch is removed from the dock and taken on a journey, it’s a reminder of every handheld console Nintendo has produced. Every piece that makes the Nintendo Switch is a nostalgic adventure back into the past.
But while that might sound rigidly static in its approach, it’s surprisingly innovative. The Nintendo Switch has a melody for every audience. There’s not a time nor place where the Switch can’t be played, whether it’s on the train to work or laying on the coach after a tiring day. It’s appeal to both the hardcore and the casual gamer allows it to sit in several different markets and create enjoyment for entirely different reasons. Its flexibility is perhaps the feature that the Nintendo Switch will inevitably be remembered for. (James Baker)
Best Nintendo Consoles #1: Super Nintendo
For many gamers in my generation, the first console that they learned to love was the NES. Not so for myself. Though I did enjoy that ugly flip-lidded machine for a year or so from kindergarten onward, it was the SNES that gave me my first real taste of what would become a life-long hobby. When my brother and I opened the SNES on Christmas morning all those years ago, it was pretty much an instant addiction. We started with Super Mario World and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time, but it wasn’t long before we were moving on to the bevy of exciting titles that were constantly being released on the 16-bit juggernaut. While my brother started to drift away from video games, preferring more casual fare as the years went on, I only sunk deeper. Titles like Super Metroid, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI only further cemented my hardcore devotion to gaming in each of its facets and iterations.
A stellar step forward for consoles and arguably the finest machine Nintendo has ever produced, the SNES defined and refined what gaming could be for generations to come, all while launching a dozen franchises that continue even to this day. Unfortunately, a series of missteps from Nintendo over the years — from a failed collaboration with Sony, whose PlayStation would eventually topple Nintendo from the top of the heap, to the gimmicky consoles and handhelds which have defined the company of late — has caused the storied legend of the SNES and its insanely impressive line-up of genre-defining titles to be largely been relegated to the hope of glory days past rather than the expectations one might attach to a promising future. Nevertheless, I’ve owned a dozen consoles and handhelds since I first encountered this tiny box of joy, yet none have ever filled me with the charming warmth that this nostalgic contraption still holds.
Long live the SNES! (Mike Worby)
The Legend of the Game Boy, 30 Years Later
Forever Changing how we Play Games
Thirty years ago, Nintendo unleashed the Game Boy, forever changing how we play video games.
When the modest gray brick arrived in the late ‘80s, it was an instant sensation and the first internationally successful handheld gaming system. Nintendo sold out its entire first run in Japan in two weeks and in North America it sold a whopping one million units in just under two weeks. To say Nintendo’s miniature was a phenomenon is an understatement. The Game Boy kickstarted the popular handheld gaming trend and without it, portable gaming may have never become what it is today. It paved the way for the world of mobile gaming and hybrid devices like the DS, PS Vita, and the Nintendo Switch – and while the Game Boy doesn’t quite hold up to those modern consoles, it will always have a special place in the hearts of old school gamers.
Timing is Everything
The Game Boy wasn’t the first portable gaming device on the market nor was it Nintendo’s first attempt at portable gaming (the company had previously released the hit Game & Watch) but as with many iconic products, the Game Boy was released at the right time for the right price.
Nintendo patiently waited for hardware costs to drop so they could design a system cheap enough for families with tight budgets and when the Game Boy arrived in North America, it was packaged with what some would argue is the greatest launch game of all time.
By the time of the US launch, Nintendo had secured the handheld rights to Tetris, a unique puzzler designed by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov. Tetris was attracting a new audience of casual gamers due to its simple yet addictive gameplay and because of that, Tetris would become the centerpiece in Nintendo of America’s marketing plan.
Laying the Bricks for the Foundation of the Handheld Gaming
The Game Boy had a massive collection of 716 games including beloved classics such as Donkey Kong, Kid Dracula, Kirby’s Dreamland, Metroid II, Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins and Link’s Awakening, but Tetris will always be the game best associated with the Game Boy. Alexey Pajitnov’s famous puzzler took the world by storm, selling 35 million copies while helping Nintendo literally lay the bricks for the foundation of the handheld gaming industry. Nintendo has created some of the best partnerships in the history of the gaming industry but packaging Tetris with their greyscale portable system back in the day is one of the best decisions the company has ever made.
While Tetris helped make the Game Boy a household name, it wasn’t the top selling game on the system – that honour would go to Pokemon Red and Blue, a game inspired by Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood love of collecting insects, coupled with his desire to find new ways to bring people together. Pokemon Red and Blue launched an international craze with its unique blend of exploration, battling and even trading Pokemon thanks to the evolutionary Link Cable.
Long before online gaming, Nintendo would release the Link Cable, an accessory for the Game Boy which allowed players to link their systems together for head-to-head competition and cooperative play. Tetris was one of the key titles to take advantage of the Game Link cable for multiplayer fun but Pokemon was the series that relied on the accessory for years since the Link Cable allowed data transferring between two devices. Trading Pokémon was not only encouraged, but it was also necessary in order to assemble a complete collection of all the Pokémon in the games – and the Link Cable made trading Pokémon possible.
The Link Cable wasn’t the only accessory made for the Game boy; it was just the first of many. There was also the rudimentary low-resolution Game Boy Camera and Printer. The camera was used to take grainy, black-and-white digital images via the four-color palette of the system while the printer utilized heat-sensitive paper to save images before making a copy. Among the many other accessories was the Handy Boy, an all in one accessory that features two amplified external speakers to be positioned on each side of the screen, as well as the Game Boy Pocket Sonar, a peripheral used during fishing trips to locate fish up to 20 meters away. While most of these peripherals were considered cheap gimmicks and commercial failures, they did expand the gaming experience in fun and creative new ways and became the spiritual predecessors of features Nintendo would later include in future consoles such as the DS and the Wii. The Game Boy Camera and Printer are especially notable since the printer helped evolve low-cost digital photography while the camera predated Apple’s iPhone by well over a decade.
Power Isn’t Everything
The 8-bit handheld video game device was created by Gunpei Yokoi along with Nintendo Research & Development 1—the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series nearly a decade earlier. As far as the design is concerned, the GameBoy was made simple and devoid of any slick modeling. If rumors are to be believed, Yokoi is said to have been inspired by watching people fiddle with calculators and apart from having a light grey-colored shell with a slight texture, there isn’t much to write home about in terms of how it looks.
The biggest criticism with the original Gameboy however, is the screen, which features four levels of grey to augment the lack of back-lighting. While players could adjust the screen’s contrast, the display quality isn’t very impressive since it is extremely grainy and difficult to see in most lighting conditions. Needless to say, the original Gameboy doesn’t display any bright shiny colors; Instead, it features a 2.6-inch screen with a resolution of 160×144 and a 2-bit color palette and a custom 8-bit Sharp processor running at just 4.19MHz combined with 8KB of RAM and 8KB of video memory. Along with the rudimentary sound system and single speaker, the Game Boy’s specs just aren’t very impressive.
The Game Boy may not have been a technical powerhouse but Nintendo proved that power isn’t everything when they released the portable system. Like so many tech companies, Sega (Game Gear), NEC (TurboExpress), and Atari (Lynx) had fallen for the performance trap, opting for faster processors and color screens to compete with Nintendo’s basic black and white system. These other consoles, however, sold for twice as much as the Game Boy’s budget-friendly $89 – not to mention they ate through batteries in a short time. Nintendo recognized that in order for the Game Boy to be a commercial success, they would have to make sacrifices, and chose to compromise certain features in favor of a broader, more utilitarian appeal. Even with such limited hardware, game frame rates on the Game Boy at least ran at 59.7fps and while rival handheld consoles like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear boasted expensive hardware, the Game Boy required only four AA batteries for 30 hours of gameplay.
Only Nintendo would have had the confidence to release a handheld console so deliberately underpowered but truth be told, Nintendo could have priced the Game Boy much higher and it would have still been a success if only for the games and consumer’s familiarity with the Nintendo brand.
Keep it in Your Pants
For decades now, Nintendo has had a strange and complicated relationship with advertising their products, taking on many forms over the years, some successful and others not so successful. What I do find most interesting about the Game Boy is the system’s marketing. The company promoted its Game Boy line using a modification of the slogan used for the Nintendo Entertainment System, “Now you’re playing with power; PORTABLE POWER!,” Meanwhile, the television ads read, “They said it wasn’t humanly possible. But now you can have all the power and excitement of Nintendo right in the palm of your hands“. It’s funny how a system that wasn’t built with power in mind, had a marketing campaign that focussed heavily on power. Perhaps even more surprising is the customers it attracted. The target audience for the Game Boy was intended to be mostly boys which I guess made sense since according to Nintendo, only 14 percent of the customers who bought and played with the NES were female. Yet, for a marketing campaign aimed mostly at males, the Game Boy was notable for being an early success in crossing the gender divide with 46 percent of their players reported being female.
Yet apart from the clever slogans, costly TV ads, and gorgeous magazine spreads, the greatest contribution to the system’s marketing came with its name. When you think about it, the name is the most important marketing tool a brand and product can have. It needs to tell consumers something about the product and hopefully entice them to take notice. While some of the names of Nintendo’s video game consoles have become cultural icons, others such as the Wii U confused consumers rather than inform them. The Game Boy, however, is a great name for a video game console and decades later, the Game Boy might just be the best-named video game console to date, at least from a marketing point of view.
The original Game Boy line-up (including the Light and the Pocket) enjoyed a life span of more than 15 years and sold up more 118 million in sales worldwide before Nintendo began to phase it out in favor of the Game Boy Advance series which would go on to sell an additional 81 million units. During those 15 years, the Game Boy would see numerous successors and peripherals; survive a Gulf war bombing, and even travel to space thanks to Aleksandr A. Serebrov who took his Game Boy along on the Soyuz TM-17 space mission. The Game Boy revolutionized handheld gaming and if you were a young gamer growing up in the ‘80s and ’90s, the Game Boy was pretty much your best friend. It would travel with you wherever you went and the Game Boy would keep you company when nobody was around.
Kids these days may look at the original Game Boy as some ancient artifact from the past and not appreciate how it helped shape and influence the video game industry moving forward, but the Game Boy holds an important role in the video game industry and allowed Nintendo to continuously experiment and push the possibilities of gaming. In the 30 years since its release, only one other portable game system has ever outsold the Game Boy: Its own successor, the Nintendo DS, which once again proved that power isn’t everything.
- Ricky D
Quentin Tarantino Triumphs with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the best film he’s made since Jackie Brown and his most emotional ever.
Unlike other filmmakers I admire, I’ve approached each of Quentin Tarantino’s films since Kill Bill with trepidation. His last few movies have seemed to jettison the influences that animated Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and instead he turned into an uncritical defender of any obscure genre film. His talent for snappy and mellifluous dialogue calcified, and was replaced by an even great reliance on violence and shock value. But with his ninth feature, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Tarantino has revitalized the filmmaker of yore. It’s his best-written and most enjoyable film since Kill Bill (maybe even Jackie Brown), and his most unabashedly emotional movie ever.
The film opens in Los Angeles in early 1969. Hollywood is in a state of transition as the studio system begins to crumble. Roman Polanski and his new wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), are emissaries of the New Hollywood, while Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an actor who has descended from films to leading TV roles to villains of the week, is tied to the sinking ship of Old Hollywood. Accompanied by his stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick accepts almost any part that will keep him afloat in his Hollywood Hills home, even if they typecast him and shrink whatever future career he might have left. His drinking — eight whiskey sours a night — isn’t helping things.
Though he considers Cliff a friend, he treats him more as a handyman and chauffeur (especially after he loses his license thanks to too many DUIs). Yet the stunt specialist, a man of few words, doesn’t seem to mind much. Though he seems almost Zen at times, he has a reputation for making film shoots difficult, so his steady work with Rick is appreciated. The early sections of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood resemble the early moments of Pulp Fiction when it’s a hangout movie about two men drawn together through circumstance. DiCaprio and Pitt don’t have that many lines together, even though they’re often with each other through the film, yet Tarantino makes every bit of dialogue count. He largely eschews the long speeches he cut his teeth on in his first few films, which is for the best — as fun as they were to hear, it often seemed as if Tarantino was more interested in showing off than in crafting dialogue that suited the film he was making.
While Rick and Cliff are trying to rejuvenate their careers, the future seems almost limitless for Tate. She and Polanski have moved in next door to Rick, who hopes the Polish director might notice him and cast him in a Rosemary’s Baby follow-up. But Polanski is out of town or out of the picture most of the time, leaving a lonely Sharon to wander Hollywood. In one of the more touching scenes in the film (not something you’d normally say about a Tarantino picture), Sharon uses her newfound celebrity for the first time to skip the fifty-cent admission price at a movie theater to see herself perform opposite Dean Martin in The Wrecking Crew. Robbie plays Tate as a bit of a ditzy innocent, but the wonder and pride she displays as she watches herself on the big screen are contagious. It’s also doubly poignant because we’re not watching Margot Robbie digitally inserted in the film, as most contemporary directors would have done. Instead, we see the real Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered later that year by followers of Charles Manson. Her promising life and career were snuffed out in the worst way imaginable, but for a brief moment, it seemed the sky was the limit. Robbie’s part is considerably smaller than DiCaprio and Pitt’s, but she signals a time of optimism and artistic growth for the art form.
Robbie’s role is charming and light, but DiCaprio and Pitt both have enough screen time to give some of their best performances ever. Rick is a man full of insecurities who’s also drunk at least half the time, and DiCaprio allows himself to be more vulnerable than he’s been in a long time. He can’t seem to get out a single sentence without being consumed by stammering self-doubt. Cliff, meanwhile, is a man of few words who exudes power, yet distances himself from the world. A lesser writer than Tarantino would have included a scene where the stuntman blows up at his boss/friend for not respecting him enough, but there’s no such confrontation for Cliff. He understands that he wasn’t meant to be a leading man — just the guy who takes the punches, and he’s learned to handle them well enough after all these years.
Being a Tarantino film, there are dozens of major actors willing to take small cameos throughout Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and many of them make the best of their parts. Emile Hirsh, who was convicted of assault after strangling a Paramount Pictures executive to the point of unconsciousness in 2015, plays a naïve friend of Sharon’s who’s infatuated with her and hoping she’ll cling to him once she dumps Polanski in a few years. Al Pacino is the least hammy he’s been in years (decades?) as a producer looking to pull Rick away from villainous TV roles in favor of rejuvenating lead roles in Spaghetti Westerns. Deadwood fans will rejoice at the sight of Timothy Olyphant as real-life actor James Stacy, the lead on a Western series Rick is guesting on.
Though most of the film is a supremely pleasurable trip around Hollywood with the three leads, the sinister presence of the Manson family lurks around the corner. An early scene of a bunch of bare-footed hippie girls dumpster diving is presented as carefree and light-hearted, but it takes on darker undertones since we can guess that they’re tied up in the cult business. It would be a crime to reveal how the Mansons are integrated into the film or its ending, but Tarantino has found a way to wrap things up that avoids many of the obvious pitfalls.
Watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it’s clear that Tarantino isn’t just having a great time — he seems to genuinely love the world he has (re)created. More than any of his other films, he lets the camera wander to glimpse the iconic sights of Hollywood, both those that still exist in some fashion and those that have been recreated. He’s also a master of recreating the look of vintage film and television, which he does copiously, bringing to mind the multiple film stocks used in some of Oliver Stone’s works or Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind. Tarantino is depicting a world and a time he was too late to experience, when many of the films that would shape his worldview were being made. In the movie’s centerpiece, when Sharon watches herself on the big screen, he seems to be living vicariously through her, experiencing his own part in this new world of cinema. He may have missed 1969 by a few decades, but it’s the next best thing.
Fantasia 2019: ‘Come to Daddy’ is a Plot-Twisting and Surprisingly Heartfelt Genre-Bender
Filmmaker Ant Timpson has been on the horror scene for years, producing some of my favourite genre films including the critically acclaimed Housebound, Turbo Kid and Deathgasm. He’s back in the festival circuit again, only this time with his directorial debut Come to Daddy— a wild genre mashup that had audiences running to the exits when it first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Timpson’s first foray in the director’s chair is a film that refuses to be labeled. It begins as a simple family reunion between a father and son and ends in a violent bloodbath loaded with gruesome set pieces, pitch-black humor, and some surprisingly touching poignancy. And that is its biggest strength – Come to Daddy is full of unexpected twists seamlessly shifting between horror, awkward comedy, mystery, and drama all while constantly surprising viewers from one scene to the next. It really is a wild ride, opening by quoting Shakespeare and Beyoncé and ending with a bizarre shootout at a sleazy motel.
Elijah Wood stars as the finicky and arrogant Norval, whose thin mustache, bowl-shaped haircut and hipster aesthetic borrows heavily from the famous DJ and musician Skrillex. Norval is a self-proclaimed music guru with a limited-edition gold iPhone and a whole lot of male insecurities. After receiving a cryptic letter, Norval visits his estranged father (Stephen McHattie) at his beachfront property in the middle of nowhere. They haven’t seen each other since his dad abandoned him decades previously but when he arrives at the residence, his father not only seems uninterested in a reunion but doesn’t even remember sending him a letter. Regardless, his dad invites him in but as the two men spend time together, his dad becomes increasingly hostile. The more time that passes, the more tensions mount, to the point where, in the midst of an argument, his dad suddenly falls over dead. Left with a lot of unresolved daddy issues, Norval is left to piece things together and quickly learns that his dad has plenty of skeletons in his closet. To say more would ruin the many unpredictable twists and turns the plot takes, as one shocking reveal is made after the next, leaving Norval to battle with demons both real and felt.
Come to Daddy is a perfect inclusion in the midnight section of films.
Written by The Greasy Strangler scribe Toby Harvard, Come to Daddy isn’t quite as crude as Harvard’s previous film, but those with weak stomachs should take caution before sitting down to watch Come to Daddy since it doesn’t take long before the uncomfortable, albeit darkly funny exploration of a broken familial relationship explodes into violent mayhem akin to a ‘70s-style thriller packed with a ton of grime and gore. A large part of the suspense comes from the fact that it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next but Timpson and Harvard never lose sight of the central theme of the film. Ultimately, Come to Daddy is a movie about a young man desperately seeking his father’s love and approval, and would go to
great horrific lengths to obtain it. Yes, there are scenes that will make you cringe but Come to Daddy is also an emotionally resonant portrait of loneliness and about one man desperately trying to reconnect with the past.
While Ant Timpson is no stranger to making movies, for a first-time director, Come to Daddy is impeccably well-made. Shot in and around the gorgeous beachfront home, Daniel Katz’s moody cinematography beautifully captures the picturesque location while Karl Steven’s eerie score is perfectly accommodating to the movie’s constant wavering tones. I especially love the staging of each scene and the visceral old-school makeup effects by Tibor Farkas – not to mention a surprise bathroom brawl that breaks out midway. But what stood out most when watching Come to Daddy, is the uniformly strong cast. Elijah Wood and Steven McHattie are amazing in their portrayals both giving bravado performances as the awkward and timid son, recovering from alcohol dependency, and the not-so welcoming old man who despite his limited screentime will downright terrify audiences. Meanwhile, supporting actors Madeleine Sami and Martin Donovan all have crucial, memorable roles as well, while Michael Smiley’s unsavory flamboyant character straight-up steals the show.
Come to Daddy is a genre-bender and one of the finest genre films of 2019. It’s a grueling little noirish thriller with slasher-worthy gore and absurd humour that is sure to make audiences laugh. There’s no shortage of scenes that you’ll watch through your fingers but you’ll watch all the same to witness the many secrets, successful twists, and brilliant performances it offers. Come to Daddy is certainly a strikingly assured first feature and recommended viewing for genre fans everywhere. I can’t wait to see what Ant Timpson does next!
- Ricky D
Fantasia 2019: ‘The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil’ is a Devilishly Delightful Time
‘The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil’ meshes action, intrigue, suspense, and visceral violence to the highest order.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Few adages carry such eclectic morsels of truth like this one. For starters, it entails one understanding that they have enemies. Second, it implies that one can recognize and distinguish between their enemies — which can be dealt with physically, politically, and economically at a later date in time, and which must be handled swiftly and immediately? To that end, one may agree (if begrudgingly) to form an alliance with the threat that can wait in order to dispatch the more pressing danger. South Korean director Lee Won-tae applies the murky realities of said expression to the fullest in The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil.
The clock is turned back to 2005 during a piping hot summer in Cheonan. Jung Tae-suk (Kim Mu-yeol) is a police detective with an unenviable reputation amongst his peers for his attitude, amongst his superiors for insubordination, and in the eyes of criminal underworld leaders like Jan Dong-soo (Ma Dong-seok) — who are greatly annoyed by the law enforcement personality — for enforcing the law in his own brash, hyper-aggressive way. Neither Tae-suk or Dong-soo care very much for another other, but their rivalry is soon put on ice after a lone wolf assailant viciously attacks the gangster one night, leaving him to escape the encounter with a few very memorable scars. When detective Jung puts enough clues together to discern that Dong-soo’s attacker is the same individual that has been murdering people at random, a serial killer investigation is opened. Tae-sook and Dong-soo forge a tenuous alliance to combine resources, each one defying the other that they will catch the killer first.
Way back in 2003, Oldboy seemed to change the way global cinephiles viewed South Korean cinema. To this day, that film is quoted as being not only a masterfully bizarre and satisfying thriller, but as the movie that opened the rest of the world’s eyes to the extraordinary talent brewing in the Korean film industry. Since then, nary a year goes by without at least one movie from that country squeezing into somebody’s top ten list. Of course, not all Korean exports can be Oldboy. That would be odd. All the same, whatever their screenwriters, directors, producers, and actors are eating for breakfast before heading to the studio lot or shooting location, just please keep up the same diet for another hundred years.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil is another entry on what is becoming a stunningly long list of Korean thrillers that mesh action, intrigue, charismatic and strange characters, suspense, and visceral violence of the highest order. Oh, and by the way, the audience will erupt in a chorus of laughter a dozen times. It’s fascinating to see a film like this unfold before one’s eyes. It isn’t as if filmmakers have never supplied moviegoers with adventures in which goodies and baddies must come together for a common cause, and it isn’t as if there is a shortage of cop films in which the protagonist is a hot-headed, loud-mouthed (and foul-mouthed) jerk; therein likes the magic of what director Lee Won-tae and his team have pulled off. It doesn’t matter that the terrain has been marched on time and time again — the movie is wildly entertaining to the very final frame.
What generally helps movies of this ilk is how the intricacies of the plot are dealt with in engaging and thrilling ways, especially when the major plot outline requires some setting up in the early goings. How is it there is a killer about? What is his or her modus operandi? Who is the lead gangster in town? Why is there a rivalry between him and this infuriatingly persistent detective? In a lesser filmmaker’s hands, all of this would be played in a very ‘by the numbers’ way, lacking narrative flow and momentum. In a word, boring. Lee Won-tae is too clever for that, however, and drops in characters that will come back in big ways later in the picture, whilst thrusting the viewer into the film’s works with gusto and without a safety helmet. Even though the general beats can be guessed, the movie nevertheless succeeds in keeping the audience on its toes because the world itself is so wild and moves along so quickly. By the time Tae-sook and Dong-soo have agreed to partake in a pseudo-friendly competition to see who nails the killer first, the movie already has the audience — hook, line, and sinker.
Helping matters in no small way are the leads. Kim Mu-yeol, in particular, has a very difficult task at hand; the aforementioned trope of the cop fueled by a devil-may-care attitude requires the actor to bring his or her best stuff to the shoot. What Kim has in abundance is charisma. His Tae-sook is indeed a vile individual, behaving very much like — if not worse than — the actual gangsters he is assigned to bring to justice. The highlight is the charm that the actor injects into the part; for every nasty slap or comment, there is undeniable, raw charisma that exudes from his personality. Put differently, he is the sort of detective one would loathe having to tail them, but who must be amazing to have on one’s team, if only for how ferociously dedicated he is towards the ultimate goal — to capture the villain. Although there isn’t a false note in the entire cast, Kim Mu-yeol is the clear standout. Loud? Yes, but oh so amusing.
The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil never loses steam, nor does it pull its punches. It is a splendid exercise in what South Korean cinema has been doing for so much of the better part of twenty years (at least, since the rest of the world took serious notice anyways). Be impressed by the gangster, sheepishly shake your head at the cop, and stay to see if they catch up with the devil.
Fantasia 2019: ‘The Deeper You Dig’ is Must-Watch DIY Horror
‘The Deeper You Dig’ is the kind of movie that Fantasia Fest was made for: those far off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out if one finds the chance to see it.
As cameras and editing software get cheaper, the bar for entry to becoming a filmmaker gets lower. And despite what snobby gatekeepers will tell you, that is very much a good thing. Art is made by artists, not the tools they use, and the most expensive gear and extensive crews do not a good movie make. The Deeper You Dig is proof of that, having been made for a scant eleven thousand dollars by a family of three who wrote, shot, edited, and starred in the film. While it’s a bit rough around the edges, there’s a dedication and craftsmanship that suffuses every frame, and in many ways those rough edges only add to its charm.
Single mother Ivy lives in a sleepy town with her daughter, Echo, separating the gullible from their money as a fraudulent psychic. But on one dark night, Echo is hit by a drunk driver — the shifty local, Kurt. Kurt hastily hides the body, but soon finds himself assailed by terrifying visions and plain old guilt. Ivy, meanwhile, continues to search for Echo by rekindling her dormant psychic gifts.
The Deeper You Dig is at its best when it is playing out like that old Sylvester the Cat cartoon where he thinks he finally got Tweety, and has nothing to do now but stew in guilt and sweat. Thanks to the impeccable atmosphere, the mostly-silent scenes of Kurt trying to put the accident behind him while he restores an old household instills a wonderfully palpable sense of dread even before the paranormal elements begin to reveal themselves. Of course, those elements do begin to crop up, and the film becomes a more somewhat more conventional ghost movie as it goes on. This isn’t bad per se, but those early scenes definitely leave the strongest impression.
The Deeper You Dig is a great example of how much can be accomplished with very simple tools. It’s quite beautifully shot, for one, with a very careful and confident eye for framing. The editing is also quite stunning at times, occasionally using a carefully chosen crossfade to stunning effect, and marches to a steady but deliberate rhythm the rest of the time. Again, the film is extremely good at using very simple tools to very great effect. Some of the more striking images even come as a direct result of the low-fi aesthetic. Scenes shot in the dead of night feel appropriately pitch black, where a bigger production would have used a lighting rig. Other times, shots are thrown into a high contrast by cameras with low dynamic range. This is the kind of film that reminds one that low-fi is an aesthetic, not a shortcoming.
It does have some rough spots, though. The soundtrack is an odd choice — a droning, amelodic affair that walks the line between music and noise. It often doesn’t quite gel, and some sequences would perhaps have worked better silently. There are also some brief dalliances into surrealism that are certainly ambitious, but can come across as stilted and awkward rather than engaging. The filmmakers will also sometimes try and pull off a visual that perhaps should have been implied rather than directly shown, like a decapitation scene that doesn’t really work despite their best efforts. It’s nothing if not ambitious, and that should be applauded on its own; even if the execution can feel a bit off, the enthusiasm and persistence of vision make up for it to a degree.
A good film demands passion from the people making it, and there’s no shortage of passion in The Deeper You Dig. That abundance of passion goes a long way, and the clear mastery of the tools at their disposal doesn’t hurt either. The Deeper You Dig is the kind of movie that Fantasia Fest was made for: those far off the beaten track, but well worth seeking out if one finds the chance to see it.
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.
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